NASHVILLE, Tenn. – Matchups are paramount in the NCAA women’s tournament.
Top-seeded Notre Dame will have a much different look against Maryland in tonight’s national semifinal without injured star Natalie Achonwa.
Irish 6-foot-3 freshman Taya Reimer, who is averaging 4.8 points and 2.3 rebounds in the tournament, will start in Achonwa’s place.
Here is a look tonight’s matchups:
The Irish’s Kayla McBride and the Terrapins’ Alyssa Thomas are the marquee matchup, and the Irish already saw the best of Thomas in an 87-83 victory at Maryland on Jan. 27.
Irish coach Muffet McGraw said Thomas played fantastic, unbelievable and phenomenal on her way to 29 points, 12 rebounds and five assists without ever coming out of the game.
Most of her looks were off rebounds, McBride said. It’s about how we can keep the ball out of her hands. She wants the ball more than anyone in the country. If she doesn’t have it, she can’t score. That’s our mentality.
McBride, a senior from Erie, Pa., knew of Maryland’s senior All-American in high school. Thomas is from Harrisburg, Pa.
There’s no specific rivalry, McBride said. I do have pride in being from Pennsylvania. It’s really cool to face someone from there. I knew she was great from the beginning.
Irish senior Ariel Braker is coming off one of her best games. She had 10 points and six rebounds in the 88-69 Elite Eight win over Baylor.
Terrapins freshman Brionna Jones averaged 8.3 points and five rebounds in conference play.
Reimer faces a rugged counterpart in 6-4 Alicia DeVaughn, who matched a career high with 16 points in the Terps’ only meeting with Notre Dame.
Jewell Loyd, averaging 21 points in the tournament, has a scorer’s mentality. Maryland senior Katie Rutan is an outside threat who has connected on 27 3-pointers in 13 tournament games.
Terps freshman Lexie Brown is an X-factor. She had 20 points in the big upset of Louisville. Notre Dame freshman Lindsay Allen has 18 assists to four turnovers in the tournament.